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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Material Efficiency as a Means to Lower Environmental Impacts from Concrete

  • Author(s): Ichimaru Watanabe, Sonoka;
  • Kamau-Devers, Kanotha;
  • Cunningham, Patrick;
  • Miller, Sabbie A.
  • et al.

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Concrete is a key component of the built environment. However, the manufacture of cement-based materials, such as concrete, produces over 8% of worldwide anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. While reducing impacts from material production is an important strategy, structural design can also mitigate the environmental impacts of concrete. Designing infrastructure in a manner that uses concrete more efficiently, and thus lowers consumption while meeting the same system demands, holds promise for reducing GHG emissions while avoiding unintended consequences. Researchers at the University of California, Davis developed an initial methodology to evaluate implications of design decisions on the environmental impacts of concrete systems using a multi-criteria selection process to assist decision-makers. They demonstrated the methodology with a case study evaluating a built Caltrans pavement overlay for which comparisons of the GHG emissions and costs of various design alternatives were examined. This policy brief summarizes the findings from that research and provides policy implications.

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